Recycler Arizona Pacific Plastics LLC is settling into a new, larger home under a new but familiar owner.
Arizona Pacific Plastics until recently was the plastics operation of Recycle 1. Michael Lipton, who has run the plastics side of the business for 11 years, bought it in October and is now the sole owner. Recycle 1 still operates Arizona Pacific Pulp & Paper.
Lipton moved his company in January to a site about 5 miles away, renting one of three sections of a 150-year-old cotton mill near downtown Phoenix. (A massive cotton gin still occupies one section.)
At the previous location, Arizona Pacific Plastics had a large outdoor area but only about 10,000 square feet of space inside. The new facility provides 43,000 square feet of space inside, and some 2½ acres outdoors.
"We love the facility; it's great," Lipton said March 2 by phone. He's having a 70-foot truck scale and full camera system installed and is contemplating a rail spur. He said he's also upgrading the building's power supply.
"The markets are doing well. We're doing well. We're looking to expand and do new things," said Lipton, who was one of Plastics News' 2014 Rising Stars. One of his goals, even then, was to own the company eventually.
Another of Lipton's long-term goals has been for Arizona Pacific Plastics to manufacture its own product and close the recycling loop — something he still aspires to.
"We got close" as part of Recycle 1, he said. "We were pelletizing at one time. But we got ahead of the market … and got too big. Now we're small again and making money."
Arizona Pacific Plastics had sales last year of about $4.2 million, with annual throughput of 19 million pounds. Lipton kept the crew he had at Plastics 1 and added a few people. He now employs eight workers full time and four part time.
"I'm trying to convert the part-timers to full time" and hire people for quality control and accounting, as well as a forklift operator. "I'm wearing all those hats right now. We need to fill those spots," he said.
The company recycles high-, low- and linear low density polyethylene including bags and film scrap and bales, purge, regrind and reprocessed resin. It handles PE and polypropylene caps, bottles, containers and resin, and expanded polystyrene including densified foam blocks.
It also recycles a range of other plastics including PET, PVC, acrylonitrile butadiene styrene, high-impact polystyrene, nylon and liquid crystal polymers.
Lipton has seen quite a bit of change during his time in the plastics recycling business.
"It was easy at first. Recyclers could bale up any garbage and send it to Asia, to China. That's changed now and we saw that coming before it happened. We used to compete with others for industrial scrap, but now we're focused on the service. We're not just a buyer," he said.
He's also looking for other opportunities and is open to the possibility of expanding or entering a partnership. "We couldn't really do that at the other place," he noted.